The Cork-Kilkenny ‘relegation play-off’ is set to go ahead this weekend if only to ensure suspended players don’t serve their bans in the first round of the provincial championships.
Seamus Harnedy and Conor Delaney are expected to pick up one-match suspensions for their straight red cards which would carry over into the Championship were they not to play the game, which Brian Cody had described as “futile”.
The game, which is only being played to determine which 2020 Division 1 group the counties feature in (the winners will play in Division 1 Group 1), now takes on a different meaning as Harnedy otherwise risks missing the Munster SHC opener against Tipperary on May 12 while Delaney would be unavailable for the visit of Dublin to Nowlan Park the day before.
Before he was informed Delaney’s ban would carry over to the Leinster SHC, Cody had revealed Kilkenny were happy not to play the game.
“All I know is we were asked during the week whether we were happy to let one team go into one group and the other go into the other and I certainly would think that would be the sensible thing to do. It would be a futile match really but whatever happens, happens.”
The GAA’s Central Competitions Control Committee will today decide the dates and times for the quarter-finals and the relegation play-off.
Big guns left to battle in Group A
The Division 1 format for 2020 looks almost as top heavy as the current structure with the last three All-Ireland champions — Limerick, Galway and Tipperary — featuring in Group A. Should Kilkenny beat Cork, it will mean Clare are the only All-Ireland champions this decade to feature in Group B. Westmeath’s reward for winning the Division 2A title is to feature in Group A where Waterford will also feature.
Remaining Division 1 quarter-finals:
Clare v Waterford (toss for venue); Galway v Wexford, Pearse Stadium; Tipperary v Dublin, Semple Stadium.
Limerick v Tipperary/Dublin; Clare/Waterford v Galway/Wexford.
Division 1 relegation play-off: Kilkenny v Cork, Nowlan Park.
2020 Division 1, Group A: Limerick, Tipperary, Cork/Kilkenny, Waterford, Galway, Westmeath.
2020 Division 1, Group B: Wexford, Clare, Dublin, Cork/Kilkenny, Laois, Carlow.
Division 1B: Relegated: Offaly.
Division 2A: Promoted: Westmeath. Relegated: London.
Division 2B: Promoted: Wicklow. Relegated: Donegal.
Division 3A: Promoted: Roscommon. Relegated: Lancashire.
Division 3B: Promoted: Longford.
So... what is the league for?
The usual answer is deepening the panel, a point John Meyler agreed with yesterday: “We were competitive in two games out of the five. We tried to blood some new players. Aidan Walsh has stood up to it. We’ll have Sean O’Donoghue, Darragh Fitzgibbon back, Daniel Kearney... we’ll be strengthening up again.”
Liam Sheedy said much the same: “When you get to the end of the league, you’re trying to get to the stage where you know 10 or 12 of your starting 15.
“All managers are like that, and I’m no different. There were some guys coming back and they’re starting to get settled and some guys are getting chances.”
Dig deeper, though, and Sheedy spoke about the work Tipp did on their training week abroad: “It was a tough day because these guys had a lot of work put in this week, you’re always wondering will you have enough in the tank... There’ll be tired bodies tonight, because for amateurs, the work that they’ve done in the last seven days is heroic.”
For all the talk about the league, the championship is still the target. Tipperary wanted to bank that week’s training ahead of the summer, so the (refixed) game yesterday was a bonus. How important will it be come the summer?
Déise weather the storm
Lightning didn’t strike twice. The Walsh Park surface withstood the punishment this time.
The weather conditions was so bad in the first half yesterday that the Waterford subs raced up the steps of the stand and took shelter in the press box.
Some of the extended panel also lined up for tea at half-time.
It was hard to blame them. What started out as a sunny day saw the skies darken before the teams were due out for the warm-ups and the hail came down.
It cleared up for throw-in but then the thunder rumbled nearing half-time.
The fans on the bank scampered for cover.
Déise boss Paraic Fanning never saw the likes of it before.
“That was a really tough day as regards the weather and now the sun is shining! We had a lot of different seasons here today!”
Did he think that referee David Hughes was going to call the players off the field?
“I wouldn’t have minded having a chat with him and get us all in! It was a bit of storm alright.
"That was a tough time for us because the elements were really with Galway.
"We did well to weather the Galway storm and that storm and come out the right side of it.”
Waterford’s sideline trickery
Not too many sidelines were being cut over in yesterday’s conditions but there was still one piece of impressive line ball trickery on display at Walsh Park.
We’ve seen the knack once or twice in the Premier League. During a 3-0 win over Chelsea at Old Trafford in 2009, Wayne Rooney appeared to have left a corner-kick for Ryan Giggs to take.
But Rooney had tapped the ball, making it ‘live’. So Giggs was free to carry the ball towards goal and cross for Cristiano Ronaldo to score.
That one was disallowed, wrongly.
But Jamie Barron’s similar trick stood yesterday.
Loitering over a sideline, Shane Bennett moved away from the ball but not before gently tapping it into play unnoticed by Galway defenders — enabling Barron to swoop undetected and drill over a crucial point.
Maybe they should have saved that one for summer.
Kerry manager says Conway ‘well marshalled’
Kerry hurling manager Fintan O’Connor didn’t take kindly to the treatment Shane Conway was subjected to during yesterday’s Division 2A final, nor was he impressed by the way the 20-year-old Kerry forward was singled out in the build-up to this fixture.
Remarked O’Connor: “Westmeath set up well. Shane Conway was fairly well marshalled. I thought, at times, he wasn’t given as much protection as he could have been in the first-half. I didn’t appreciate that he was singled out coming up to the game.”